The IDF is testing various types of Israeli built
unmanned ground vehicles, among them, autonomous navigating
robotic vehicles used for security missions and a portable robot
designed to support infantry units in urban warfare.
At AUSA Winter symposium, March
2007 Elbit Systems unveiled its lastest UGV known as the
Versatile, Intelligent and Portable Robot (VIPeR). This robot
is designed to support infantry forces in combat operations.
The company developed the prototype version under an Israel
Ministry of Defense Resrearch & Development Directorate
(DRDD) funding and supplied several systems for evaluations
by the IDF.
small robot which has exceptionally high mobility in urban terrain,
based on a new, patented integrated wheeled/track system developed
Mobility Instruments Ltd., powered by two electrical motors,
and a "scorpion tail" which elevates the payload and
stabilizes the platform, enabling the vehicle to rapidly advance
and maintain a steady course of movement over rough terrain.
video of the prototype developed by Galileo). In handling
obstacles, it is climbing steps or crawling into confined subterranean
spaces and caves. With
compact dimensions and only about 11 kilograms weight and 30x40
centimeters size (excluding the tail) the new robot can fit
into the soldier's backpack and become a standard equipment
of future infantry units. Initial users will most probably be
the Special Forces but eventually the IDF plans to field VIPeRs
with its infantry platoons. The new robot can be equipped with
a standard suite of visual and acoustic sensors and could also
mount various effectors, such as a probe, pistol, 9mm mini-Uzi
or grenade launcher, or a more capable electronically initiated
light weapon (such as a "metal storm" launcher.
Unlike the ambitious US plan to develop and deploy
highly autonomous combat robots as part of the FCS program,
the Israeli approach is more pragmatic, considering the contributions
of such autonomously navigated vehicles in rather limited, mission-specific
tasks. These will initially include perimeter security and border
patrols and could later be enhanced to specific roles in force
protection. In 2006, the IDF conducted an operational test of
several unmanned systems, designed to conduct partly autonomous
security and patrol missions, as part of border and security
operations along the separation zones between Israel, the west
bank and Gaza strip. The IDF tested several locally developed
systems, including the Guardium,
developed by IAI, AvantGuard,
developed by Elbit. Under the encouragement of Israel's MOD
the two companies estabished a joint venture called G-NIUS,
to harness their combined resources in the UGV field, to offer
a cost effective, partly autonomous security system to be based
on UGVs, that could relieve some of the pressure from the troops
engaged with routine security operations along the country's
borders and securing the perimeters of military bases and installations.
By May 2008 the IDF received the first batch of Guardium UGVs
scheduled to enter fully operational service along the countrie's
borders by the year's end. Some defense analysts argue that
the abscence of such systems actually triggered the latest Lebanon
War in 2006, as Hezbollah guerillas ambushed an IDF patrol killing
four soldiers and abducted three from one of the disabled vehicles.
Such missions could be effectively performed by unmanned vehicles
without putting human soldiers in danger.
UGVs are part of a comprehensive unmanned ground system, based
on the Tomcar chassis, a locally built off-road recreational
vehicle, equipped with autonomous navigation, and obstacle sensing
and avoidance sensors which both feed the control system. The
vehicle can travel autonomously from point to point, following
a pre-planned mission, employing its video and acoustic sensors
to monitor a specific sector, and investigate objects of interest.
The vehicle can negotiate various scenarios, with pre-planned
responses, with or without human intervention. Such capabilities
have already matured at Elbit in other programs. According to
Tal Yeshaya, Head of Elbit Ground Systems, Israel, the company
could utilize its robotic vision, obstacle detection and avoidance
capabilities gained by its subsidiary ElOp subsidiary, through
the development of laser radar obstacle avoidance capability
for helicopters, which have now matured into the LORD system.
When deployed, such robotic vehicles will become "triggers"
which could discriminate between innocent and peaceful activities
along the perimeter, to hostile or suspicious actions, based
on the target's responses.
As the vehicle performs its mission, its operations are constantly
monitored at the command post, where human operators are standing
by to intervene when required.
According to Yeshaya, one of the most critical tasks for such
system is the creation of "remote situational awareness",
where the remote vehicle can accurately "paint" a
realistic and comprehensive situational display. Elbit is introducing
several new capabilities to provide such capabilities, including
the development of a hemispherical display, based on several
video cameras covering 360 degrees. The images generated by
each camera are automatically superimposed and "sewed"
to create the digital, hemispheric picture which is transmitted
back to the command post. Signal processing of a continuous
sequence of such images enables more advanced capabilities,
such as motion detection, object and obstacle tracking, etc.
This hemispheric view also enables the vehicle and operator
to point the main payload to investigate specific targets of
interest. These capabilities were also implemented by the company
in a parallel program, developed to enable tank and AFV crews
to maintain full situational awareness while safely operating
inside the vehicle, under the armor protection. Similar to the
UGV application, this program also integrates sensors, external
sensors and remotely operated systems to enable human operators
to effectively conduct operations without maintaining direct
visual or physical contact with the target.